The Second Half: Talking about freedom

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

In my Second Half, I receive lots more jokes, essays, interesting photos, and stories by e-mail than I ever did in my first half of life. Unfortunately, I receive a lot more of those ghastly chain letters, too.

You know the kind: they ask you to send it on to 20 of your closest friends within 5 minutes, or you will contract the plague, or your nose will fall off, or some such curse. I imagine a robed ancient sitting at a computer screen in a darkened room, lopping off the head of a chicken and stirring it into a boiling cauldron. As soon as my 5 minutes are up and I fail to follow instructions, the wicked one cackles in glee and raises a magic wand at my Facebook page … well, you get the picture.

I remember Mom trying to explain to my 8-year-old mind that a chain letter was “just for fun” and not really REAL! We were free to ignore them. I was always worried about doing the right thing in those days — if chain letters were “fun,” why the nasty consequence for non-compliance?

Today, I worry I might offend a friend who sends me these things and wants me to forward them. So, here’s my public declaration: “It isn’t personal, I just won’t forward them! Even if it means you won’t get ‘a special surprise in four days,’ or the government will self-destruct, or I’ll miss the chance to earn a fortune, or my nose will fall off.”

I admit, I never liked my nose that much, anyway.

The latest chain letter I’ve received — at least 17 times in the past weeks! — is about congressional reform and suggests we petition the government to make these changes. Nobody likes social reform more than I do, but sadly much of this information is disputable — wouldn’t it be great if more people actually spent this time studying the Constitution, attending debates and voting instead? I love a well-informed citizen!

Here is what the chain letter wants:

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure/No Pension: a Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present and future) participates in Social Security: all funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise: Congressional pay will rise by the lower of Consumer Price Index or 3 percent.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective Jan. 1, 2012.

OK, let’s talk about this a bit. I tried to check some of this data with Internet hoax sites to see what they said. First, I went to

“The ‘Congressional Reform Act of 2011’ is not a real bill in Congress, but it is a passionate plea for change on behalf of concerned citizens hoping to get the word out across the World Wide Web. We do not know who wrote this e-mail other than a concerned citizen who wanted to change Congress. This call for citizen action first appeared on the Internet shortly after the 112th Congress was sworn in Jan. 5, 2011. … The writer of the e-mail is apparently passionate about his recommendation but failed to give any directions as to where all these forwarded e-mails could be sent to do any good. We found some of the claims from the list to be inaccurate.”

The founder/operator of is a journalist who has been researching urban legends and hoaxes for decades. You may visit his site to see what else he says:

There are lots of references to the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” on the Internet, if you are so inclined. But before we blindly believe everything we read, I suggest we all invest a little time and effort. American freedom is important enough to explore thoroughly.

Dare I say it: “Take a class!” For example, Rock Valley College’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR) offers a class called “What In The World Is Going On?” exploring world problems and stimulating political debate. CLR offers lots more classes to help us stay informed — call them at (815) 921-3931.

Right now, I am reading a book called Delirium by Lauren Oliver that made me think about how humans get sucked into believing stuff. This book is a YA (Young Adult) novel about a society that believes love is actually a medical disease, causing problems such as depression, suicide and war, to name a few. At 18, every citizen must take the “cure” — a form of lobotomy — to keep them from the insanity of this disease. There’s more to this uber-controlling society, such as: electrified fences to keep citizens in, and squads of “regulators” that raid the homes of citizens to enforce their compliance. Shades of Nazi Germany!

Forget chain letters — maybe we could discuss how this teen book encourages political awareness and reform? After all, what’s more fun than being free to discuss our FREEDOM!

Happy Independence Day, readers!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the July 6-12, 2011, issue

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